Trouble Emerges for Seri Indian Desert Bighorn Sheep Hunts in Mexico


Published: August - 2013

Desert bighorn sheep are arguably the most coveted of North American big game, with hunters competing for something in the range of 150 to 200 public and private tags in the US annually. Public draw tags are considered once-in-a-lifetime, but the majority of the tags are reserved for residents of the seven western states that hunt desert sheep. New Mexico, Texas and California do not currently discriminate between residents and nonresidents, but unless you are a resident of Utah, Arizona, Nevada, Texas or Colorado the odds of drawing a tag are far worse than once-in-a-lifetime. For those hunters with a strong desire to hunt desert bighorns, and the financial wherewithal to do so, Mexico has long been the place to go.

Within Mexico, desert sheep have traditionally been hunted in the states of Baja Norte, Baja Sur and Sonora. Recently, sheep populations have been restored in Chihuahua and Coahuila and a very limited number of hunts have opened there. But for the past decade the stronghold of sheep hunting has been Sonora and more specifically the Seri Indian holdings of Isla Tiburon, in the Sea of Cortez, and the mainland coastal mountains controlled by the Seris north of Punta Chueca.

Back in the 1980s I had the opportunity to work on Isla Tiburon while consulting for the Center for Desert Ecology in Hermosillo. I accompanied one of the first hunters on the island in January 1999. I have followed the sheep program in Sonora since the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish placed sheep on the island in 1974 and the most recent developments should be of concern to any hunters planning a sheep hunt in the area.

The Seris, who call themselves "Comcaac," are the native desert people of the region and originally inhabited the mainland, Isla Tiburon and Isla San Esteban. Conflicts with Mexican settlers and the Mexican government reduced their original homeland and with the creation of the Isla Tiburon Biosphere Reserve, the tribe was consolidated at Punta Chueca, north of Bahia Kino on the Sea of Cortez.........(continued)

 
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